NORMAN — Mike Stoops produced one of the most memorable moments in Bedlam history.
In the final seconds of Oklahoma's beat down of Oklahoma State in 2003, Stoops stepped from the Sooner sideline, stopped at the Owen Field hash marks and glared at the Cowboy sideline. Then, he raised his arms, palms up.
“Want some more of this?” his stance seemed to ask of the visitors.
Cowboy fans remember it.
Loathe it, too.
“Really?” Stoops said earlier this week of what he did that day. “I don't even remember.”
“I didn't flip ‘em off or anything, did I?”
Welcome back, Mike.
Bedlam missed you.
Never before has this rivalry been so good, having been spurred by OSU's steady improvement and OU's continued excellence. And yet, even as it has crescendoed these past few years, it has lacked an agitator, something every great rivalry needs.
Enter, Brother Mike.
Or re-enter as it were.
Stoops' return to Norman after seven-plus seasons at Arizona has sparked a resurgent OU defense. His impact cannot be overstated. Despite what happened these past two weeks, the Sooners are a much improved bunch.
Of course, the Sooner defense will be tested again Saturday. The Cowboys are third nationally in total offense, rolling up an average of 553.7 yards every time they step on the field. They will move the ball. They will put up points — probably lots of them.
But you know Stoops will have his defense as prepared as possible.
Frankly, that's his calling card. Former players have often said they never felt unprepared going into a game. They might not have won every game, but they always felt prepared.
Stoops gets his guys ready to play.
That was one of the reasons he was so animated back in 2003.
Perhaps you remember the back story.
The Cowboys were coming off a pair of victories in the series, a shocking 16-13 victory in 2001 and a dominating 38-28 win in 2002. Then, Cowboy coach Les Miles threw jet fuel on the fire by lobbing a pair of salvos at the Sooners.
“They're the best team in college football ... we're told,” Miles said after OSU's game the week earlier.
He fired more ammunition two days later.
“Next Saturday, two teams are going to play,” he said. “One is maybe the best team in college football, and the other one is a darn good football team.
“We're going to play to figure out which is which.”
Stoops, by the way, remembered that.
“Les had some great comments that week,” he said. “How can you forget ‘em?”
Stoops loves those type of things. The master of preparedness can use them as part of his defense's preparation all week.
“This game's built on emotion and motivation,” he said. “We say that wears off after a few plays, but that's not true. Your will to win, your determination to win is built as the weeks goes on.”
Stoops, then, believes that bulletin-board material can make for a more well-prepared defense.
Don't suppose Stoops heard Todd Monken's “Sooner state” quote, do you?
Yeah, I figure he's already got that plastered in the defense meeting room.
The funny thing, though, is that while Stoops believes such agitations can help a defense, he doesn't shy away from being an agitator himself. He slams headsets. He speaks truths. He blows gaskets.
He says what's on his mind.
He does what's in his heart.
Consequences be damned.
Last we saw Mike Stoops on the field for Bedlam, he was raising his arms toward the Cowboy sideline and raising a stink among the OSU faithful.
“All in fun,” he said.
“They're probably happy I'm here now.”
Not sure Cowboy fans are, but Bedlam sure is.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.